Honda has been one of the biggest surprises this season, powering Red Bull its step forwards means it has more wins than Ferrari this season. But could the next set of regulations see the board walk away again? But why does its F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto believe they can’t do much more?
Honda future depends on results
Honda believes that it cannot do much more to secure the future of its F1 programme after next season, as they wait for a decision from the board on whether to continue beyond next season.
The Japanese manufacturer took its first win since 2006 with Max Verstappen in Austria and again in Germany, as well as allowing the Dutchman to take his first pole in Hungary. The strong performances have allowed Red Bull to be the most consistent challenger to Mercedes.
This comes at a time when Honda is deciding whether to continue in F1 after the end of next season, and its win in Austria was following a key meeting.
Honda’s F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto told Motorsport.com that in terms of the significance of the place and timing for Honda’s first win since returning to F1 in 2015, “maybe the only place it can equal is Suzuka”.
He says what they have achieved this season is in “in accordance with my plan, what I had hoped. There is not much we could do more than this. What we’ve kept saying is we wanted to exceed last year’s Red Bull result.”
Three more wins and nine podiums in the second half of the season would see it better his 2018 results, however, the team is set to beat its points tally despite a performance disparity between the team’s 2019 drivers. Verstappen has seventy-six more points than he had at this point last year.
Yamamoto moved into the F1 MD role this year after Honda decided to give the sport independence from the rest of its motorsport division and to give the project dedicated focus as Honda prepared for a major opportunity with Red Bull.
He says, “I think it’s going to encourage us for continuation. Honda and generally in society [in Japan] are in a very good mood that Honda has won. I think it’s going to be very good for us.”
It was a year ago when Daniel Ricciardo shocked the sport by announcing he was leaving Red Bull to join Renault. This week the Australian revealed that his race engineer Simon Rennie played a role in his decision. But what was it?
Loss of Rennie played a role in Red Bull exit – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo says that the prospect of losing his race engineer Simon Rennie played a role in his decision to join Renault from Red Bull. The Australian was expected to sign a new deal with the energy drink giant for 2019.
Instead, he shocked the F1 paddock by putting pen to paper on a two-year deal with Renault. Regardless if he has stayed at Red Bull it would have been his fast year working with Rennie, as he was keen to travel less and was thus being moved into a factory role.
Red Bull had planned to reunite Ricciardo with his former British F3 race engineer Mike Lugg, but the Australian then surprised the team by selecting to join forces with Renault – which partnered him with Carlos Sainz’s former race engineer Karel Loos.
Ricciardo told Motorsport.com, “There were a lot of reasons, but losing Simon – I knew he wasn’t going to engineer this year if I stayed at Red Bull, and I thought I had a good relationship with him, and there were some unknowns.”
“I was certainly comfortable with him. If I knew he stayed, I don’t know if that would’ve been the deciding factor, but it was another [thing] – obviously, when you’ve got the Honda concern and a few others, I guess that was another little thing.”
He repeated, there were a lot of little ‘unknowns’ that added up, refusing to use the word ‘concerns’ as he felt that was disrespectful. Ricciardo says alleged favouritism towards teammate Max Verstappen was not a major aspect, as “it was talked about more than [what] I saw”.
He also said Red Bull “did okay” in terms of the salary that was offered, adding: “That wasn’t a big difference in the end, it wasn’t a deciding factor.”
Fans are often passionate, but what is it like consistency beating your teammate and being consistency being hit by his fans with conspiracy theories as to why. George Russell spoke about the hurt, but why does he hope he will have fans that passionate, one day?
Polish fans “little hurtful” – Russell
George Russell says it is a “little bit hurtful” to receive negative comments from the most outspoken fans of his Williams team-mate Robert Kubica. The Englishman stepped up to F1 this season, after back to back GP3 and F2 titles.
Russell has beaten Kubica in every qualifying session so far, while Kubica’s struggles have led to constant suggestions – mainly from his home country in Poland – that he is not receiving the same treatment or equipment as Russell.
Asked if it is easy to ignore that reaction on social media, Russell told Autosport: “It’s a little bit hurtful that 50% of the comments on my posts are hate from Polish supporters, whereas the other 50% is complete support for me.
“I mean, I do truly only care about the view from inside what Williams think of me, what Mercedes think of me. But you also want to be respected from outside.”
He says he has not come across anyone who’s disrespecting him or giving any hate to me, who are not from Poland. But he understands the situation and hopes that one day he can have fans that passionate.
Williams’s struggles, Russell’s comparison to Kubica has often been the only way to judge his rookie season.
Kubica scored a fortunate point in the chaotic rain-hit German Grand Prix but Russell completed his qualifying whitewash in the first part of the season with comfortably Williams’s most competitive 2019 performance in Hungary before the summer break.
Russell added “But, every experience I wouldn’t change at all because from those bad events I also learned a huge amount. I’ve had people ask me, knowing what I know now and if I could do the first 10 races again, ‘what would you change?’.”
Five years ago, the team now known as Alfa Romeo was fighting for its very survival. But now the Swiss team are beginning to return to the midfield, how does team principal Fred Vasseur, assess its gains?
Alfa “improving drastically” – Vasseur
Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur says the team is “improving drastically” and has made a “huge” step with its potential this season. Last year the former Sauber team ended the season fighting for top ten finishes but had a small slip in performance at the start of this year.
Kimi Raikkonen, who re-joined the team this year, has led the team’s progress to the head of the midfield battle again, and Alfa only trailed McLaren in the races leading into F1’s summer break.
However, Vassuer believes that splitting the midfield and backmarkers is where Alfa is really is in the midfield. He told Motorsport.com, “I’m much more focused on the level of performance. We are improving drastically. Last year we were 2.5s off, we are on average 1.5 and the [most recent races] we were 1.2.”
“For us it’s huge. Then we have to translate it in points, and that’s another story. At least in terms of potential, we made a huge step forward.” The Swiss team’s stable finances have seen it make good progress from the few years at the beginning of the hybrid era.
Vasseur, who joined as team principal and CEO halfway through 2017, thinks one key area to improve will be how it prepares for the start of 2020.
“We did a small step back between last year and the beginning of the season. Perhaps not [right at] the beginning but we had a part of the season, maybe May, that made it more difficult. I think it’s the life of the development,” he added.
He said that the team looking at the bigger picture has made one to one and a half per cent gains, Vasseur described it as “huge”.
And that’s all from this edition of Reporters, goodbye